WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP (1992) is a film about a white and black basketball hustler which broaches upon racial prejudices.
12/08/09 | Film

White Men Can’t Jump

by Shane Jones

It’s a pick-up line that never fails. I go to bars to meet women and the first thing I say is, “I can slam dunk a basketball.” She doesn’t believe me so we drive to the nearest outside court where I glide through the air with such grace, slam dunk with such brute force, that it’s a perfectly implied metaphor for my sexual abilities. It’s the ultimate foreplay, and after a half dozen dunks, we drive to my place.

I become the only white guy in the neighborhood to wear an NBA name jersey. I buy the jersey of whoever won the following years slam dunk contest. When people point and laugh as I make my way across the court, I reply, “I can slam dunk a basketball.” They don’t believe me. They’re trying to calculate how much to bet me, how much cash they can walk away with. But it’s too late. I’m already hanging from the rim.

I install a regulation hoop in my living room. I have house parties, get ridiculously drunk, and slam dunk. My friends all make that sound. You know, “Ohhhhhhh! Booooooom!” If a fight breaks out I slam dunk on them. Some girls ask my friends, “Who is that really cute guy.” And they say, “Here?” “You know,” they say. “That guy who can slam dunk a basketball.”

Halloween is easy. I go as “Guy Who Slam Dunks.”

For the first time in his life my father is proud of me. He’s been listening to his co-workers brag for years about sons attending Ivy League schools, sons in Iraq, sons studying to be doctors and lawyers. My father just smiles. He doesn’t have to say anything. He just sits at his desk imagining his amazing son throwing down two points.

After my “Super Slam Dunker World Tour” I get a little cocky. My friends begin to turn on me. I’ve become a man whose only form of expression is a slam dunk. I try new things. I stretch my shirt up and over my head and slam dunk. I leap over rows of people and slam dunk. Nothing impresses them because they’ve seen it all before. “All you are is a fucking slam dunk,” they say. “You’re not even a real person anymore.”

I begin to take performance enhancing drugs. My calves look like mutated cauliflower. I agree to a tapping of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not where I attempt to slam dunk on a fourteen foot high hoop. I hit the rim full face with the ball, and on the way down shatter my left ankle. Somewhere, in upstate New York my father turns the television off.

I sell my story to E True Hollywood story. The ratings are an all time low.

I become “Guy Who Could Slam Dunk A Basketball.” I go to the same old bars and women turn away. I look around the bar. At the dartboard there’s a guy claiming he can throw a football one hundred yards. Another, at the pool table, says he can hit home runs nine out of ten pitches. I drive to the high school court and do lay-ups.

Years later I try and make a come back. In my last attempt to slam dunk a basketball I have a TV special broadcast from Madison Square Garden. I barely make the dunk which is labeled as “weak” in the New York Times. Women, children, grown men, they weep in the stands. Fathers tell their sons at home, “He use to be the best slam dunker around.” They tear up a little, looking back at me on the television waving to the crowd.